1. California ranks among the top states in per capita expenditures on a number of government programs (i.e. corrections, law enforcement, general government), but just near or below the national average on expenditures for kids’ programs, including education and Medi-Cal. What are your thoughts on this prioritization of expenditures and what, if any, changes would you make in this regard?

The budget is a reflection of values. We have the resources to fully fund social programs and community services for our communities – it has always been a question of misallocation of resources. We spend far too much on prisons, and militarized policing, and not nearly enough on public schools, libraries, and social services.

I fully believe that we must determine our budget by always prioritizing programs that directly benefit the people of California first, like healthcare and food programs. In the State Assembly, I will fight for strong public and social services through specific programs like Universal Healthcare and a Green New Deal for Public Schools during the budget process.

2. California assumes responsibility for abused and neglected children when we remove them from their homes. Therefore, the State is legally obligated to ensure that children and youth in foster care receive vital services and supports to meet their unique needs and find safety, stability and success. How would you strengthen the child welfare system?

For too long the California Child Welfare System has failed far too many of our children. Every child in California deserves a safe, stable, and loving home, especially in the child welfare system. In the Assembly, I would fight to build upon improvements made in recent years while deeply investing in providing enough resources and support to foster youth and families.

To begin I would seek to make permanent many of the one-time investments made in the most recent budget, such as the expansion of foster outreach and services at community colleges, the foster youth tax credit, and more funding for family finding/engagement. However, I believe that long-term fixes must be implemented within the child welfare system. The first would be to deliver much-needed funds to supplement services, outreach, and care professionals (including case managers) within the system. I would look forward to working with organizations like the Children NOW Action Fund to determine the needed budget allocation and passing it through the Assembly. There is nothing more important than the well-being of our children.

I would also seek to address systemic racism within the child welfare system that has disproportionately impacted Black, LatinX, and Indigenous families and children. I support the recent legislation against the separation of Indigenous families and would seek to strongly enforce it. Proposals I would seek to address injustice in the system would be:

  1. Providing services, support, and counsel to parents at the beginning of any investigation to encourage maintaining the family unit
  2. End law enforcement collaboration with social service workers within the child welfare system
  3. End practices that criminalize poverty
  4. Prioritizing relative/kinship foster care placements and removing any and all barriers for family members who want to care for children who have been removed from their parents.
  5. Establishing an Independent oversight commission of the Department of Social Services Foster Care System
  6. Inform all parents and children of their rights and available services.

3. California ranks poorly in national reports for supporting families with infants and toddlers. The state does invest in programs like evidence-based home visiting – which provide guidance, offer coaching, and connect parents and caregivers to health and social services – but those only reach about 2% of families with young children. What strategies, if any, do you support to aid new and expectant parents and young children during this critical phase of life?

The first years of life are extremely important in the development of a child. In the Assembly, I will work hard so that every family of young children has access to needed resources that will allow all children to thrive from the start. As part of my platform, I support the development of a strong safety net. That includes investing more funding in programs like the home visiting program to connect families with guidance and resources. Additionally, I will advocate for programs such as Universal Childcare and Universal Pre-K so that every child in California receives a strong education and families can be connected to resources via school and day-care.

Furthermore, I believe that California should set an example that we value supporting new families, as other countries do. We can start by ensuring that parents are able to spend more time with their families (especially in the formative years) by passing Universal Paid Parental Leave and Universal Paid Family Leave so that parents can actually go to coaching appointments, seek out resources and more.

4. More than 2.75 million young children live in California, with the majority being income-eligible for child care assistance. Yet just a fraction of eligible children have access to subsidized child care spaces, due to insufficient funding for child care capacity. This gap is most pronounced for infants and toddlers, where child care subsidies served only 14% of eligible families (pre-pandemic). What is your position on this issue, and what, if anything, should be done to ensure that all families have access to high-quality child care?

Every single family deserves the right to high-quality child care. I believe that the Governor’s program for universal TK is a strong start and should be fully funded to fulfill its promise. However, that does not cover all infants and toddlers in California.

I strongly believe that the State of California should pass and work towards implementing Universal Childcare. Research shows that high-quality early education can improve high school graduation rates, income levels, and reduce general health risks. The State Government should partner with local providers to create a network of childcare options that are available to every parent. The State can then invest the needed funds (raised by increasing taxes on the wealthiest amongst us) and also launch a State Jobs Program to expand the needed staff capacity to accommodate all of the young children below the age of 4 while creating millions of good-paying union jobs across the State.

Investing in the well-being of our young children is investing in the health of our community.

5. The average salary of a California public employee is nearly $87,000, while the average salary of a California child care provider is $35,400, and most other professionals who work with kids are also below the public employee average. What are your ideas, if any, about responding to this disparity?   

It is unacceptable that the employees that work hard to care for our children are not being paid enough to care for themselves. In the Assembly, I would seek to explore a variety of options from establishing a base living wage, increased material support (rent assistance, food assistance, etc.) for childcare providers, public daycare centers that are directly funded by the State as well as increased unionization rights and support to allow workers to fight for higher wages and better work conditions.

6. The latest available data shows California ranks 49th among the 50 states in teacher-to-student ratio, 47th in school counselors, and 46th in school administrators. We also rank near the bottom in terms of school nurses, with approximately one nurse for every 2,400 students and no nurses at all in some smaller counties. What are your thoughts on these rankings, and what, if anything, should be done in response?

In 2020 (pre-pandemic), California’s state share in funding public education was the lowest it had been in 30 years. Education is the foundation of our society – we need to give public school funding higher priority in our budget.

In order to have a high-quality education, our students need the additional support of teachers, school counselors, nurses and school administrators. The State of California should work together with teachers’ unions and school departments across the state to bring more administrators, teachers, librarians, and care professionals to our public schools. In 2019, this is what we were fighting for when I stood and marched with our LAUSD teachers. I would look to work with school districts to provide:

  • The creation of a school nurse mentoring and jobs program. All schools with more than 750 students should be guaranteed a full-time nurse.
  • Reduce School Therapist to student ratios to less than 400: 1.
  • 1 full-time teacher librarian for every elementary school with at least 250 students and a half-time teacher librarian for elementary schools with less than 250 students
  •  At least 1 college counselor for every high school with at least 350 students
  • Needed funding to hire the needed amount of school and administrative staff.

7. California has the highest percentage of kids who are dual language learners, ages 0-5, (60%) and school-age English Learners (21%) in the country. How should the State support these students’ bilingual/multilingual potential? What are your thoughts on how educators in early education and TK-12 can be prepared to assist these students to meet their language development needs?

California should continue to encourage the multilanguage potential of every student so that every student feels seen, heard, and acknowledged as a part of the diversity that constitutes our state. As a Filipino, I am glad to hear that our school district, LAUSD, will soon be investing in Tagalog dual-language programs.

Right now, as 39% of the students in the State are LatinX, the legislature should work to ensure that every school is equipped with at least a Spanish learning program and an English learning program for all students. I am also a firm believer in the Schools as Community Centers model where students could receive tutoring and additional language learning support. Funding should be provided to pilot immersive language programs in schools.

Educators in TK-12 and Early Education should have the opportunity to earn muti-language credentials and teach different languages through a State Jobs Program. Additionally, all teachers should receive training on language justice and multicultural communication.

8. Over the past 40 years, state spending on higher education has dropped from 18% to 12% of the state budget. What is your position on funding for public higher education?

As the 5th largest economy in the world, we have the resources to dramatically invest in our public higher education system. I am a champion of student loan debt cancellation and free public higher education. No student should be barred from going to university and no family should have to enter into massive amounts of debt to go to school. We must invest more in making higher education accessible to more Californians. I would support expanding the California College Promise program to provide an additional 2 years towards the State College and University system. I will be a champion of public education and TK-16 in the State Assembly.

Further, I understand that not all students are interested nor can thrive in a higher education setting. For this reason, I would also fight for funding for trade schools, like LA Trade Tech, so that anyone with an interest in a trade can also get state assistance.

9. Over 55% of California’s kids are enrolled in Medi-Cal, but California performs near the bottom amongst all state Medicaid programs when it comes to children’s access to primary care physicians and important childhood screenings, especially for children of color. In addition, many California children lack access to oral health care, vision services, hearing aids, and mental health and substance abuse supports and services. What would you do, if anything, to increase access to these services?  

My vision for healthcare in California is universal, single-payer healthcare. I was strongly supportive of CalCare and disappointed when it failed to garner a vote before the Assembly. I believe that a single-payer system would provide the best possible care for patients as it puts their needs first. Gone would be any financial barriers to access that have prevented marginalized communities from receiving care. No one should ever have to choose between paying rent and going to see a doctor or affording critical, life-saving prescriptions.

I would make sure that any CalCare legislation includes provisions for mental healthcare, oral healthcare, vision services, substance abuse recovery, LGBTQ+ affirming care,, and whatever specialists are required. Funding can be achieved through limited tax increases (especially for the uber-wealthy) and by realigning budgeting priorities, as we already spend over $120 billion a year on healthcare with nothing to show for it.  I would hope that CalCare would complement a federal Medicare for All system that provides universal and free-at-the-point-of-service for all people in the United States.

10. The suicide rate among Black youth has dramatically increased in recent years. In addition, Major Depressive Episodes (MDE) among youth have grown, but only about one third of youth with an MDE received treatment. What should be done to ensure that more children receive needed mental health supports and services?

This is especially personal to me, as my brother died thirty years ago by gun suicide after battling schizophrenia. Because of this personal experience, I firmly believe that mental wellness is just as important as physical health. As a champion of Healthcare for All/CalCare, I believe that one of the primary barriers to children receiving needed mental healthcare support and services is the prohibitive cost. Through a universal healthcare model, every single child in California would be able to access mental health care services, free at the point of service.

Additionally, through proposals such as the Green New Deal for Public Schools, I would champion increased therapists and care professionals at every public school in California. Every child should be able to easily and directly get the needed mental healthcare.

My office would also look to partner with community organizations and care groups to fund mental healthcare initiatives and programs within my district, whether through grant funding or specific funding legislation in the Assembly.